Monday, December 25, 2006

Breaking New Ground -- Northern Lights

(Pictured above, five of us breaking new ground at a new half-way house for women on Cherry Street in Burlington, including a former inmate, AHS Secretary Cindy LaWare, myself, Tiffany Bluemle from Vermont Works for Women, and Mayor Bob Kiss.)

Before my second term as State Legislator begins, I'm pleased to announce that one of my legislative projects from my first term hit a landmark. I'm referring to the groundbreaknig of Northern Lights last month in Burlington.

As part of my research last session, I discussed how one of the many problems we face as a state is that about 100 inmates are still imprisoned even after having served their time. Why? For many it's because there's nowhere for them to go.

One solution that I successfully fought for with many others was the creation of a new half-house for women with a twist. It's called Northern Lights, and the twist is that the released women will have 24-hour support to help them find jobs, stay clean off drugs, raise their children well, and get the moral support they need to be productive members of society.

I was honored to join a former inmate, Vermont AHS Commissioner Cindy LaWare, Tiffany Bluemle from Vermont Works for Women, and Mayor Bob Kiss. I spoke about how Corrections in Vermont is in need of major help. Most offenders going to our prisons and jails aren't being reformed. While other states have successfully reduced their recidivism rates, Vermont's remains over 50%. And that's the case despite the fact that we're increasingly spending millions more on Corrections each year. In fact, Corrections has grown from 4% of our budget to 10% in just 15 years. We need a new approach. Northern Lights is a step in that direction.

This coming session, I hope to continue pushing for this new path. We must ensure that we have prison beds available for violent repeat offenders, and find less costly and effective alternatives for many others who can be reformed. That will make our state safer and more financially sound.


At December 26, 2006 11:36 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Happy New Year to all of us!
The Old North End is fortunate to have Jason representing us! I am amazed that Jason has the political courage to tackle sensitive subjects like corrections. Without courageous politicians like Jason we would continue to slip further into the “…lock them up and throw the key away…” mentality that is draconian at best and financial folly. Even more amazing is Jason’s ability to convince others in the State House that he is correct. Put all that together and it defines leadership. We should be proud.

At January 04, 2007 5:24 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree that we are lucky to have Jason as a representative. He is obviously diligent and sincere in his commitment to improve life for Vermonters. My question for Jason is where does he stand on the legalization and/or decriminalization of drugs in our state and our nation? As Jason so eloquently points out, our prisons are becoming more full and more expensive every passing day. Perhaps non-violent drug users should be spared the vagaries of prison and the deprivation of their natural rights to choosing to engage in a particular behavior that sectors of society deem immoral. Perhaps we should let people who choose to engage in drug use in the privacy of their own homes do just that... Be private. It is painfully obvious that the ridiculously expensive and hurtful "war on drugs" has been an abysmal failure. With more agressive swat teams, heftier prison terms and the wanton disregard of rights, it is just a matter of time until we lve in an Orwellian nightmare. Please let logic and ideals guide you conciense and abolish this evil we know as prohibition.


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